Not entirely unexpectedly, the Senate has put an end to the much-discussed 'Work where you want' bill, which was intended to offer employees more flexibility in their choice of work location. Although the proposal was adopted by the House of Representatives with an overwhelming majority of 125 votes, it was not favored by the Senate.
During an earlier debate, most groups appeared to support the proposal, but reservations were made about the need for such a law. Discussions focused mainly on the increased administrative burden this would place on employers, a point that was raised in particular by the employers' organization VNO-NCW. According to them, many companies have already made voluntary agreements about working from home, which would reduce the need for legislation in this area.
The political dynamics in the Senate turned out to be significantly different than in the House of Representatives. Parties such as BBB, VVD, JA21 and SGP, which voted for the bill in the House of Representatives, have now turned against it. BBB Senate member Robert van Gasteren and VVD Senator Cees van de Sanden both spoke out against the 'unnecessary' regulatory burden and stated that the market could better regulate these issues through collective labor agreements.
A survey by Kantar Public showed that almost half of employees have to deal with traffic on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while four in ten employees are not tied to a physical workplace. That caused mixed reactions. According to Maarten Neeskens, Accelerator Mobility Transition, working from home would not only reduce traffic jams but is also more cost-effective than other solutions such as laying extra asphalt.
Opposition came mainly from interest groups. The Foundation for Working Parents expressed disappointment about the decision. Director Marjet Winsemius stated that the law would make employers less powerful, a position that was also supported by the trade union FNV. Vice-chairman Kitty Jong of FNV even described the result as 'cynical election politics'.
It is clear that the Senate did not want to simply ignore the potentially far-reaching consequences of the proposed working from home law. Despite the varied and sometimes fiery opinions, working from home remains a subject that employers and employees must tackle together, within the framework of existing legislation and associated duties of care.
The rejection of the bill in the Senate marks a striking shift in the political and social debate surrounding working from home. While the bill, an initiative of GroenLinks and D66, initially seemed to have broad support, the political arena of the Senate ultimately became the battleground for fundamental disagreements.
traffic jam problem
This decision also has implications for the Dutch traffic jam problem, which according to the ANWB is worse this year than in pre-corona times. Particularly heavily congested routes include the A12 between the German border and Arnhem, and the A27 from Utrecht to Breda. Maarten Neeskens, involved in mobility transition, pointed out the importance of working from home as a sustainable alternative to traditional commuting. The corona crisis previously served as a 'testing ground', which he said showed that working from home can indeed contribute to reducing traffic pressure.
In the meantime, many companies are making their own agreements to reduce traffic pressure, such as avoiding physical meetings before 10.00 a.m. or drawing up schedules where entire teams only meet on specific days. This raises the question of whether formal legislation is actually necessary, or whether the market is able to regulate itself without government intervention.
duty of care
Employers' duty of care remains in full force, even when working from home. The employer must ensure good and safe working conditions, a responsibility that is already laid down in current legislation. Employees are encouraged to proactively discuss with their employers if they want adjustments to their workplace or working conditions.
All this leads to a complex discussion with numerous parties involved. From the government and political parties to employers and interest groups; They all have their own vision on the best balance between flexibility and regulation. Although the bill did not pass, the theme of working from home has undoubtedly not disappeared from the political and social agenda.